Natural Remedies for Allergies to Cats – A Complete Guide
Dealing with allergies to cats can be frustrating and uncomfortable. However, there are many natural remedies that can help reduce allergy symptoms. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes of cat allergies, symptoms, and provide natural treatment options to manage allergies to cats.
What Causes Cat Allergies?
Allergies to cats are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to proteins found in cat dander (skin flakes), saliva, and urine. These proteins are called allergens. When someone with cat allergies is exposed to these allergens, their immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful and releases histamine and other chemicals that cause allergy symptoms.
The most common cat allergen is called Fel d 1. It is found in cat skin flakes and saliva. As cats groom themselves, the saliva dries and flakes off into the air. Fel d 1 can become airborne and easily inhaled, causing allergy symptoms. All cats produce Fel d 1, even though some cat breeds are marketed as “hypoallergenic”. There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat.
Common Symptoms of Cat Allergies
Cat allergy symptoms typically develop within minutes or hours after exposure to cat allergens. Common symptoms include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, throat, or roof of mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Hives or itchy rash
In severe cases, cat allergies can trigger asthma attacks. Seek emergency care if you experience severe breathing difficulties after cat allergen exposure.
Natural Remedies for Cat Allergies
If you suffer from cat allergies but don’t want to part with your feline friend, there are many natural remedies that can help control symptoms. Here are some of the most effective options:
1. Take Quercetin
Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory that stabilizes mast cells to prevent them from releasing histamine. Multiple studies show quercetin helps reduce allergy symptoms like sneezing, stuffy nose, and itchy eyes when taken regularly.
The suggested dosage is 400-500 mg twice daily. Look for quercetin supplements derived from the medicinal herb stinging nettle for better absorption.
2. Take Butterbur
Butterbur is an herb traditionally used to treat headaches, asthma, and allergies. It contains compounds called petasins that prevent histamine release. In allergy trials, butterbur has been shown to be as effective as antihistamine drugs like Zyrtec.
For allergies, take 50-100 mg of butterbur extract twice per day. Reduce dosage if you experience side effects like upset stomach or headache.
3. Take Vitamin C
Vitamin C has natural antihistamine effects and can help strengthen the immune system against allergens over time. Studies show taking Vitamin C regularly reduces sneezing, nasal congestion and runny nose from hay fever and indoor allergies.
Take 1,000-2,000 mg of Vitamin C daily, in divided doses. Reduce dosage if loose stools develop.
4. Rinse Nasal Passages with Saline
Use a nasal saline rinse to help remove pollen, dander, and other allergens from your nasal passages. This can prevent or reduce allergy symptoms. Make your own saline rinse by combining 3 heaping teaspoons of iodide-free salt with one rounded teaspoon of baking soda. Mix with 16 oz filtered or distilled water. Use a bulb syringe or neti pot to irrigate sinuses.
5. Apply Natural Pet Shampoo
Bathing your cat regularly with a natural pet shampoo can help reduce dander and allergens on their skin and fur. Look for gentle, chemical-free shampoos made with natural ingredients like aloe, oatmeal, honey, or essential oils. Follow with a thorough brushing to remove loose hair and flakes.
6. Use an Air Purifier
Using a high-efficiency HEPA air purifier can filter out cat allergens and irritants from the air. Position one in the main living area and another in the bedroom for maximum benefit. This can provide some allergy relief at home.
7. Practice Proper Vacuuming Technique
Vacuuming frequently can help reduce cat allergens in carpet and upholstery. However, use proper technique to avoid stirring up dust. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Wear a face mask while vacuuming. Vacuum slowly and dispose of the bag or rinse reusable filters after each use.
8. Control Mold in the Home
Mold spores can worsen allergy symptoms. Use a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity under 50%. Fix any leaks. Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products. Replace moldy carpets, drywall or leaky pipes. Reducing mold improves air quality.
9. Wash Bedding Weekly
Your bedding can collect cat dander and allergens. Wash sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water weekly. For severe allergies, consider covering mattresses and pillows in dust mite covers.
10. Limit Carpet and Upholstery
Carpets and fabric furniture harbor dander and allergens. Remove carpet if possible and use hard flooring. Choose leather or vinyl furniture over upholstered. Keep pet off furniture to reduce transfer of allergens.
11. Use HEPA Furnace Filters
Changing out HVAC furnace filters to a HEPA filter can trap cat allergens circulating throughout the home. This can provide some allergy relief indoors.
12. Wash Hands After Petting
Wash your hands immediately after petting a cat to remove saliva and dander allergens. This prevents spreading them to your eyes or nose which could trigger symptoms.
13. Take a Supplement with Bromelain
Bromelain is an enzyme naturally found in pineapples that exhibits natural antihistamine effects. Some studies show bromelain helps reduce nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy throat from seasonal allergies when taken as a supplement.
Take 500-1000 mg daily between meals. Bromelain may interact with some medications, so check with your doctor first.
14. Drink Hot Tea with Lemon
Drinking hot tea with lemon can help relieve allergy symptoms. The heat of the tea helps clear nasal congestion. Lemon contains Vitamin C and natural antihistamines. Green tea also contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Drink 1-2 cups daily.
15. Local Raw Honey
Consuming local, unprocessed raw honey may help your immune system adapt to local allergens over time. Eat 1-2 tablespoons per day. Look for honey from beekeepers within a 50 mile radius of where you live for the most benefit.
When to See a Doctor for Cat Allergies
While natural remedies can help control mild cat allergy symptoms, they may not be enough for those with moderate to severe allergies. See a doctor or allergist if you experience:
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or coughing
- Frequent sinus infections
- Asthma flare-ups
- Skin hives, rash or swelling
A doctor can prescribe stronger medications to relieve symptoms, or recommend immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves getting allergy shots to desensitize your immune system to cat allergens over time.
Tips for Living with a Cat if You Have Allergies
While challenging, it is possible to live with cat allergies. Here are some tips:
- Keep cats out of the bedroom and restrict them to one area of the home only.
- Have someone else bathe and brush the cat weekly.
- Wash hands immediately after petting the cat.
- Consider keeping the cat outdoors or finding it a new home if allergies persist.
- Vacuum and clean regularly with HEPA filter vacuum.
- Use air purifiers throughout the home.
- Wash bedding and laundry weekly in hot water.
- No fabric covered furniture or carpet in main living areas.
- Take allergy medication as needed for symptoms.
With diligence, natural remedies, and lifestyle adjustments, living with cat allergies is possible. However, consult a doctor if symptoms become unmanageable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why am I suddenly allergic to my cat?
Allergies can develop at any time, even to pets you’ve had for years. As cats age, they produce more dander which may trigger new allergy symptoms.
What kind of doctor treats cat allergies?
An allergist or immunologist is specially trained to treat environmental allergies like cat allergies through medications, immunotherapy, or other therapies.
Will my cat allergy symptoms ever go away?
For many, cat allergies are a lifelong condition. Symptoms may improve by avoiding allergen exposure or receiving immunotherapy. But there is no cure for cat allergies.
What is the best cat breed for allergies?
There is no truly hypoallergenic cat breed. But some cats produce less Fel d 1 protein than others, like Siberians and Cornish Rex. Speak to a reputable breeder to learn which breeds may be better tolerated.
Can cat allergies be life-threatening?
In rare cases, cat allergies can trigger anaphylaxis which can become life-threatening without immediate treatment with epinephrine. Seek emergency care if you experience difficulty breathing, swelling or fainting.
Will shaving my cat help reduce allergies?
No, shaving a cat is not recommended. The allergen Fel d 1 is mainly found in saliva, not fur. Shaving may actually worsen allergies by causing dry, flaky skin which sheds more dander into the environment.
Should I get rid of my cat if my allergies are severe?
Re-homing your cat may be necessary if allergies are impacting your quality of life and natural remedies do not provide enough relief of symptoms.
Is cat dander harmful to babies?
Yes, cat dander and allergens can trigger allergies and asthma in young children. Limit exposure by keeping pets out of your child’s bedroom. Monitor for allergy symptoms.
Are hairless cats hypoallergenic?
No, hairless cats like the Sphynx breed still produce the Fel d 1 protein in their saliva and dander. They typically do not cause fewer allergy symptoms than furry cats.
Dealing with cat allergies can be difficult when you love your pet. However, with natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and effective medical treatment, managing cat allergies is very possible.
Work closely with your doctor and veterinarian if you decide to keep your cat. Stick to your treatment plan. Monitor your symptoms and adjust as needed to keep allergies under control.
While challenging, thousands of cat lovers find ways to minimize their allergies through persistence, commitment and the desire to keep their beloved furry companions in their lives.